Watford were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in an eventful Wednesday evening at Vicarage Road. Both squads suffered numerous setbacks going into the game but despite an impressive performance from the hosts, they left empty handed following goals from Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech after Emmanuel Dennis levelled the scoring before going in at the break. Here are three key points to take away from the game:
1. Persistent Pressing
Watford were a joy to watch last night. They were bold and brave again under Ranieri with their tireless effort to get in Chelsea faces in the same manner that worked so brilliantly against Manchester United. No respect was shown to the visitors which has been a huge downfall of Watford in the past, most recently against Liverpool in Ranieri’s first game in charge. Now they are setup with quick forwards and importantly a unit of players who hunt as a pack, making even the best of players question their abilities to play out in their own third. This has been fundamental to the vast improvement in performances in recent weeks and when I say vast I mean monumental when you look at how poor and lacklustre the Hornets were for many games at the start of the season. They seem to be enjoying playing with this style and whilst it does mean gaps are left at the back, it feels like it’s the better of the two evils as far as Watford’s poor defence is concerned and an emphasis can be made on getting the ball high up the pitch where attacking talents like Emmanuel Dennis and Josh King are starting to flourish.
2. Mid-season Midfield Discovery
The quality duo of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue felt all to distant earlier in the season as the club were a long way off the standards needed in this division. There was a lack of overall quality and balance to the side and it was plainly obvious to see that Watford were second best in contests as the midfield continued to struggle. Now Ranieri has achieved a balance with Louza, Sissoko and Cleverley all offering different qualities but also having their own role in the team. It is still early days for this trio, particularly as Louza continues to build his fitness but there is hope in the form of these three players. Sissoko has been the club’s most consistent player even in the teams good or bad spells and has been a terrific signing so far whilst Cleverley is an inspiration to his teammates with his tenacity. With a poor injury record for the latter, keeping these three fit could be vital for the team otherwise they run the risk of returning to early season struggles in this department.
3. You get what you pay for
Like Sunday’s game against Leicester, the levels of overall performance were in vain due to a lack of ruthlessness in the sides defensive work. Despite it being far from a poor showing defensively against Chelsea, lapses in concentration and intensity are getting punished. Sadly there would be some form of optimism if the team were lacking defensive organisation as this could be worked on but it is the individual quality that is costing Watford goals and making life too hard to pick up points even in spite of the attack looking potent. It is hard to probably expect anything different though, Sierralta and Nkoulou are both absent through injury despite probably being the best two centre backs to choose from. When Rose came on early on, not a penny was spent on transfer fees for the back four and it feels like a mix of bad luck but that lessons haven’t been learnt from the board and it feels probable that it could be very costly in the long run. With Masina now out for a while, Danny Rose will have to suddenly improve his conditioning if he is to be a hit as a signing. It is hard to see what the answer is but individuals like Troost-Ekong have to step up their game otherwise you feel like brave performances will continue to lead to nothing.